America Is Still the Freest Country

Already, the title of this article can make many readers laugh condescendingly. They want to remind their authors that the United States is not among the top ten in the world freedom index. But that freedom index misunderstands American culture and freedom.

In the latest round of the index of the world’s freest countries, such as Freedom House and the Cato Institute, the United States has dropped into the teens. But, as is often the case, lists and rankings like this are compiled by my fellow academics who think that the world can be understood by numbers alone, whereas, if you really want to understand a culture or a society, one. must be steeped there; a person should be friendly and live among his people, almost to the point of becoming one of them.

The reason why Northern European countries like Sweden and Germany score higher than the United States in press freedom, for example (as in the Reporters Without Borders index), is that – to put it simply – everyone in those countries basically thinks the same. . From Norway to Italy, one does not notice the limitations of freedom, because many people think the same thing. There is so little antagonism between the government on the one hand, and the press and private citizens on the other, that little conflict arises. Freedom of the press in Sweden is often praised, but, again, this is because there is so little conflict between the press and the state. Culturally ignorant people interpret it as tolerance on the part of the state, but the real reason is that everyone—the state and the press—have the same opinion about everything. What passes for polite conversation and acceptable opinion is much more limited in those countries than it is here in the United States, and so there is much more room for conflict.

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For example, most self-identified conservatives in Western Europe agree with progressives that one cannot claim that one’s own culture is better than another culture, because they feel that such a claim would be xenophobic. This agreement, and countless other agreements, helped to create an illusion for some that European governments are more tolerant of the press and private citizens than is the case in the United States. But if the Scandinavian or German press-shops, and their private citizens, were even half as loud as the people of America, and represented even half as many diverging opinions as the public in the United States, we would soon find that the government. who are far more antagonistic than they otherwise seem. An indication of this is that in much of Europe, and in Canada, citizens are fined and sometimes arrested for speech, which today, is still impossible in America.

The world saw a similar dynamic during the Covid response, revealed by comparing the federal system of the United States and Germany. In Germany it seems to be more harmonious to the policy of Covid than in America, because the governor of the German state Minister Presidents—everyone agreed with each other about ending freedom, so there was no antagonism between them and the central government. In the US, on the other hand, there is still a wider range of thought and opinion. So we find so much antagonism here in the United States between various entities because we don’t agree with each other, and because the Overton window is much, much wider here than it is elsewhere. This antagonism makes us score low in the freedom index, although in fact it is a proof of freedom of press and thought and intellectual diversity that still exists here in the United States.

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In short, America today ranks poorly in the index of freedom because it has more room for disagreement, and therefore for conflict. This conflict is measured as a proof of freedom, so the nations that have less conflict – because they are less free and diverse – are defined as more free. The main reason, on a broad historical level, that the range of accepted debate is narrower in Europe than in the United States is that European countries have ceased to be great historical powers. The social pathology of oikophobia and self-effacement has prevailed there, while here in the United States the struggle is still ongoing. The battle between progressives and conservatives in Europe may seem to be raging, for example, in the general election victories of right-wing blocs in Sweden and Italy, but in reality it has been fought and lost by conservatives. For this is what happens when society comes out of its great historical phase, unless it falls into a violent fight: it becomes calm, irrelevant, and small, focusing on the very small.

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During my most recent stay in Sweden, as the country was preparing for its parliamentary elections, I had to laugh at how many minutes the difference was between campaign sloganeering from the left and the right. This is centered on innocuous claims like wanting to make Sweden better and stronger, while some “conservative” parties and bolder say that something needs to be done about the rise of gang violence, while still confused about what the main cause is. such violence. Perhaps the Europeans will one day reawaken and enter the new world stage—a direct Russian attack or the cultural insult of a constant influx of newcomers could lead to such a development. In that case we will again begin to see a far wider spectrum of perspectives represented among Europeans. But this is not where they are, and most European conservatives today will wince even if what in America is just mainstream conservatism.

America is free, in part, because free speech is still strong here, and we have still preserved the broadest intellectual space for different views. Canceling culture is very American, of course, but in Europe canceling culture is less “needed” by oikophobic radicals; the law is on their side, and people are closer to each other ideologically. So, to the people in America who are afraid to speak their minds, and especially to my fellow academics whose minds are not completely filled with modern education, I say, remember how lucky you are to live in America. Find the backbone, and speak up.


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